In the spiritual life, there is action on two sides. These sides are that of God’s activity in the believer’s life and the actions of the believer. Salvation is indeed completely of God by His grace through faith without works of any kind on the side of humanity (English Standard Version Eph. 2:8-9). Although salvation is a gift of God to all who believe, the spiritual life is a life of hard work on the believer’s part.
The apostle Paul wrote in Romans that the believer is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and to transform their minds, so they are not conformed to the world (Rom. 8:29; 12:1-2). In being conformed to Christ one is emulating and following His nature and style. They are seeking to be as He was. Whereas, being conformed to the world one is patterning themselves after the ways of the world and not Christ. One take away from these two texts is that a believer is conformed to one of two things: Christ or the World.
It takes work not to allow ourselves to be conformed to the world. It is here where God’s activity is found most prominent. In our salvation, God has made each believer a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Not remade but completely new with a new nature. This new nature is of God and is made by God’s love placed into us. Robert Saucy stated it well when he said, “Through this love of the new heart, the new person becomes a new self that begins to live life as intended by God–life in relationship with God and others” (110). This love was poured into every believer’s heart “through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5).
This means that God has come “into the very core of the believer’s heart through the Spirit, and in doing so he…create[ed] a new heart” (Saucy 108). Saucy further states that “The provision of the new heart making us new persons is one of the greatest blessings of Christian salvation” (109). Since believers have been given this new heart and the love of God the believer must choose daily to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit”, and “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” (2 Cor. 7:1; 2 Tim. 2:22). Lewis Sperry Chafer says, “Christians are appointed to live every moment of their lives with the Holy Spirit of God. Life for them is a moment-by-moment vital union with One who is infinitely holy” (70).
It seems that God has blessed every believer with the equipment needed to maintain the spiritual life, but to maintain it the believer must continue to utilize the equipment and grow/transform their mind. Although believers are to continue to grow “God is the ultimate heart-changer” and everything that a believer does is secondary and “dependent upon his work in us” (Saucy 106). The believer works to live in a manner that is pleasing to God, but this is accomplished because the believer has the Spirit of God in them that gives them this ability (2 Tim. 1:7). Charles Ryrie gives a solid reason why believers must continue to transform their mind and cling to the Spirit of God. Ryrie stated, “God has provided the way of victory. But, because [the flesh] has not been refined, it is a powerful enemy with which we have to live” (46).
God works in every believer through the power of the Holy Spirit to equip them to grow spiritually. Even so, the believer must continue to do so. It is not just “you are saved now all will be good and perfect.” According to Ryrie, and Scripture, that is completely false. Yes, God has provided all that is necessary for the believer to grow, but the believer must exercise what God has given them or they will become indolent and susceptible to falling into wickedness. Salvation is all of God, but the spiritual life is of the believer utilizing the exercise equipment God has given them so they can grow in spiritual formation.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. He That is Spiritual: A Classic Study of the Biblical Doctrine of Spirituality. Zondervan, 1967.
The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. Crossway, 2016.
Ryrie, Charles C. Balancing the Christian Life. Moody, 1976.
Saucy, Robert L. Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual Transformation. Kregel, 2013